Ahead of the holiday shopping season, numerous bookstores are doing their best to manage customer expectations by putting out alerts about expected supply chain and shipping delays. Reprising last year’s American Booksellers Association theme of “October is the New December,” booksellers are urging customers to shop as early as possible in order to secure popular book titles as holiday gifts.
San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishers wrote in its October 26 newsletter, “The publishing industry across the board is experiencing a massive slowdown as a result of supply-chain shortages. So it’s very important that you give strong consideration to ordering the books you might be thinking about for holiday gifts right now. We’re doing our best to stock up early and in much larger quantities, but we can’t promise titles will be replaced quickly in certain cases.”
Katie, assistant bookstore manager at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina, wrote in their October 23 newsletter that “the supply chain is currently a mess. We are experiencing and expecting heavy delays this year. In all likelihood, they will be much worse than in 2020.” Encouraging customer shop early, she wrote, “We are desperately trying to stock up but even with our wizard book buyers, we can’t guess what the ‘Hot Title’ of 2021 will be and that title may magic itself off our shelves before you get here.”
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic wrote in an October 20 newsletter that they’re encouraging customers to place Hanukkah orders by November 1 and Christmas orders by December 1, stating they“can’t guarantee packages placed after these dates will arrive before the holidays” due to USPS warnings that 2-day priority shipping “could take up to 2 weeks to arrive during the holiday rush.” The store wrote, “From paper and printing shortages, to shipping delays, and understaffed warehouses, the pandemic’s effects are still being felt globally, and that affects us, too! So we’re asking everyone who plans to give books as gifts this year to start thinking about and placing orders now.”
The same urgency was expressed by Webster Groves, Missouri bookstore The Novel Neighbor in their October 22 newsletter, which encouraged customers to do their holiday book shopping early and stated, “The supply-chain is even more disrupted this year due to COVID-related labor shortages in publisher warehouses, printing capacity limitations, and shipping issues. All of which means potential out-of-stock books and order delays.”
Angela María Spring, owner of Washington, DC’s Duende District Bookstore, wrote in the store’s October 14 newsletter that “October is your last month to reliably order gifts online and be confident you’ll receive them by December” and “The big new book you’re excited about may not be available to get to you until the New Year.” Spring encouraged customers to ask the store’s booksellers for backlist recommendations via email or social media.
Gainesville, Florida’s Third House Books, which is currently closed to the public and only processing orders by mail, posted on Instagram on October 30 that “[l]ots of books are very delayed” due to supply chain issues. The store will be closing to new orders for 2021 in one month to give staff “time to process all of them.”